The politics of brinkmanship How far will Tsipras go?
All indications are that the Greek prime minister is prepared for a long fight with the creditors. Alexis Tsipras does not seem to be too concerned over the consequences of a possible default of Greece.
As the Greek financial crisis reaches new levels of brinkmanship, some European leaders scratch their heads to understand the scope of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras' actions. Other EU leaders are left in a state of numbness.
It is true that the firebrand Greek leader has caught many European leaders by surprise. Although Tsipras' pre-election pledges provided a clear picture of his government plans there was common belief that once in power Tsipras would have to water down his demands from Greece's creditors so that an agreement could be reached in due time.
But after four and a half months of endless negotiations with the European Commission, the IMF and the ECB, Tsipras' only compromise seems to be partly in privatizations. Not for any new ones, but for the continuation of the tenders for Greece's regional airports and the Piraeus Port Authority.
Regarding his other 'red lines', the pension system reform, the labor market liberalization and the write-down or at least a restructuring of Greece's debt, he maintains his hard stance and shows no willingness for compromise.
So how far is Tsipras willing to go with his brinkmanship?
All indications are that he is prepared for a long and hard fight with the creditors and does not seem too concerned over the consequences of a possible default of Greece. Greek media reported on Wednesday that he told To Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis during their meeting on Tuesday that he is not too worried over possible capital controls because “Syriza voters don't possess large deposits anyway”.
True or not, it is obvious that Tsipras would have a very hard time convincing his Syriza comrades and his coalition partners ANEL to sign-on and vote for an agreement that would be close to what the creditors are asking now. Some observers even fear that Tsipras would rather let the country default and deal with it rather to accepting creditors' 'absurd' demands and do the 'kolotoumba' (summersault) as previous Greek leaders have done with the bailouts.
Yanis Varoufakis, Tsipras' partner in the brinkmanship game, is showing the same hard stance and during his visit to Paris on Wednesday signaled that there would be no agreement during Thursday's Eurogroup meeting and that the only chance for a deal would be at heads of states level, hinting at next week's EU Council.
Some Greeks may feel that Tsipras is showing strong leadership and he's fighting hard to keep his promises but it is becoming more apparent day-by-day that he is terribly miscalculating Eurozone's willingness to show resolve and not 'bow to blackmail'. Even the notion that capital controls would be manageable can easily prove a tragic illusion. Some Syriza officials use the example of Cyprus and how smooth capital controls were managed. But in Cyprus there was a huge factor that enabled the capital controls to function effectively: the country had already agreed a bailout program with its creditors.
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